‘Legally binding’ changes to Brexit deal after Theresa May’s dash to Strasbourg

The Government has secured "legally-binding" changes to the Brexit deal after Theresa May made a last-minute dash to Strasbourg for talks on the eve of a crucial vote in the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister's de facto deputy David Lidington gave the update to MPs as Mrs May and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay were meeting with EU leaders.

Mr Lidington said: "Tonight we will be laying two new documents in the House; a joint legally-biding instrument on the Withdrawal Agreement and protocol on Northern Ireland and a joint statement to supplement the political declaration.

"The first provides confirmation that the EU cannot try to trap the UK in the backstop indefinitely and that doing so would be an explicit breach of the legally-binding commitments that both sides have agreed."

And he said the "joint instrument" reflects the commitment to "replace the backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020".

Mr Lidington added the Attorney General would be publishing advice ahead of Tuesday's debate, but needed time to consider the new changes.

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington speaking in the House of Commons about Brexit (House of Commons/PA)
Cabinet Office minister David Lidington speaking in the House of Commons about Brexit (House of Commons/PA)

"The Attorney General will publish his legal opinion," he said. "That will be available in good time before the debate.

"I think the house would expect the Attorney General to consider very carefully rather than rush an opinion out to meet the deadline for this statement this evening."

The last-ditch bid to make progress in talks came amid predictions the Prime Minister was headed for a second humiliating defeat on her Withdrawal Agreement and it remains to be seen if the concessions will be enough to see it pass through Parliament.

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